All eyes on them: Virginia Beach couple uses video to bring parents into classroom

Neil and Jane Yaeger plan to open the Commonwealth's first Lightbridge Academy in Virginia Beach
Neil and Jane Yaeger plan to open the Commonwealth’s first Lightbridge Academy in Virginia Beach. (Justin Belichis/Southside Daily)

VIRGINIA BEACH — What if you could be in your kid’s classroom without actually being there? While most parents work eight-hour days and drop their young ones off at daycare, one Virginia Beach couple said they can do it with a live video stream.

It’s one of many ways Beach locals Jane and Neil Yaeger plan to change the equation with the Commonwealth’s first Lightbridge Academy, an early childhood education school that takes in kids as early as six-weeks old.

The academy held its groundbreaking Wednesday at 2121 Salem Rd., where it plans to open a two-story center with ten classrooms and two playgrounds some time in October.

“I worked here as a teacher for about 15 years at a small private school, where I really developed my passion for education and working with kids,” Jane said. “I left that job due to health reasons, and during that time, Neil and I decided that it would be a really good opportunity to start something new.”

Neil, who has a background in sales, said after helping Jane recover from her rare diagnosis, he was ready to start a business — something he’s wanted since he was a teenager.

“I’m living out my dream right now,” Neil said. “We’re actually the farthest location from their headquarters, so this is a big deal for them as well. We’re hoping to be that flagship office in Virginia.”

Neil said the Virginia Beach academy will start with three classes, six teachers and serve infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers. At this point, the center will be open from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m with two-day, three-day and five-day programs.

For infants, the academy has a nurturing program, which focuses on teaching them basic sign language to communicate before they learn words.

“We have a curriculum that we’ll use and really get kids kindergarten ready when they leave the center, right down to a program we have called ‘handwriting without tears,'”

Jane also said it’s a safe environment bursting with technology, including bio-metric fingerprint locks to get inside the building and an electronic communication tool for teachers to tell parents what their child is eating and how many diaper changes they’ve had.

“We want to cater to the military, the medical staff at Sentara for their shifts,” Neil said. “We want to make sure that, as hard as it is for them to drop their kids off, I don’t care if they’re six-weeks or four-years-old, that they actually know they’re going to be in a safe environment.”

Parents who want to take it a step further can actually watch their children through its parent view program. The program gives up to four accounts, secure access to watch their child in the classroom and even the playground.

“It’s not only just a service for the parents, but it’s also, in my opinion, checks and balances,” Neil said. “A parent is going to be a little hesitant dropping off their kid, they might feel guilty, but this is their way of keeping tabs on us.”

Learning foreign languages, music, sports, playtime and arts is part of the center’s curriculum, too, which draws influence from psychologists like Jean Piaget, Howard Gardner and Friedrich Fröbel.

Lightbridge Academy, formerly known as Rainbow Academy, opened its first education center in New England in 1997. Jane and Neil’s franchise would be the first in the state.

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